To understand the consternation of the citizenry, we need to add some detail to the story. George Rudd was the warden of the Idaho State Penitentiary. Lyda Southard, Marguerite Boggan, and Angela Hopper were women inmates.
Southard, the most notorious of the three, had been convicted of poisoning her husband in 1922. Evidence was building that she had dispatched a string of husbands in a similar fashion. Southard had escaped from prison in 1931 and was recaptured in Denver in 1932.
Boggan had an argument with her husband in Salmon that resulted in a struggle over a gun, which the husband lost, resulting in his demise. She was later pardoned.
Hopper had some notoriety of her own in Boise, though not for murder. Angela Hopper had served as city clerk in Boise for 13 years. Just a few days before movie night she had pled guilty to embezzling more than $50,000 from local improvement districts. (Note: We'll be hearing more about Hopper the next two days)
If treating inmates to a night at the movies was shocking, imagine how citizens reacted when they found out Warden Rudd had taken Hopper for a joy ride to Payette the day she was incarcerated. Rudd took Southard, who had already escaped once, to visit her mother in Twin Falls, leaving her unsupervised for hours.
Letting inmates enjoy some free time was apparently common at the prison. They were sometimes allowed to hike along the Boise River, play tennis on the courts at Julia Davis, and have an occasional picnic well outside the walls.
Warden Rudd chalked these special privileges up to simple acts of kindness to the prisoners in hopes of encouraging their rehabilitation. In his defense, none of the instances of beyond-the-walls excursions resulted in an escape during his tenure as a warden.
That tenure was, however, about to end. Rudd had been a state legislator representing Fremont County before being named warden in the spring of 1933. By January of 1934 he was out of a job because of the movie night scandal.
Rudd always felt justified in his actions and many years later in an oral history blamed his loss of the job on coverage by the Idaho Statesman, pointing out that he got terrific support from the Boise Capital News. Most newspapers at that time were blatantly political. The Statesman was a Republican newspaper and the Boise Capital News was Democratic. Rudd was a Democrat.
One might think that a kerfuffle such as the inmate movie night would have killed Rudd’s political career. Nope. The very next year he was putting out feelers about running for secretary of state. He decided not to but did run for lieutenant governor. Rudd lost that one and was defeated in a run for his old house seat in 1934. He was elected Chief Clerk of the Idaho House in 1935 and again in 1937. He ran for an Idaho senate seat in the 40s and won. His last political post came in 1960 when he became a probate judge. George Rudd passed away in 1970.